Although I enjoyed and loved all of the horses I grew up with, and the ones I spend time with now, there have been three very special horses in my life whom I have loved and appreciated above all others.
FX Silver Cherie (Cherie)
My first horse was an Arabian mare named Cherie (pictured). She had a horrendously springy gait, but a golden personality. She (5 at the time) and her brother, Rainey (4 at the time), arrived at our farm when I was about one year old.
After getting to know Cherie's personality and seeing her interact with me, my mom knew she would be a perfect horse for me to start on. She was so careful around me. Even if I was pulling on her lead rope trying to get her to run behind me, she never picked up the pace. She always kept her head down and made sure I was not underfoot.
Cherie was the most emotionally sensitive horse I have ever known. If I was having a rough day, needed to cry, or was angry about something, I would go to her. I would either sit in her stall with her or put my arms around her and she would just rest her head on my shoulder. She would stay in that position until I let go. I am convinced she knew when I was sad and needed that comfort. Sometimes I would go to her stall and I would just pet her and sing to her. I assume she liked it because she would rest her head on my shoulder and her eyes would close.
She was so willing to do anything you asked without hesitation. She would pick up a gait from vocal commands and was so easy to guide. If she had been smoother and slightly larger, she would have been a perfect horse.
Even when I moved on from her as a riding horse, she was still my source of emotional support. I loved my next horse dearly, but Cherie was just so special with how comforting she was.
Cherie moved on from this life many years ago due to complications of Cushing's disease. I will never forget her. I hope this sweet soul is happy and at peace in horse heaven.
EZD's Challenger (Challenger)
My second horse love was a plucky little Racking Horse who I affectionately refer to as “Good ‘ole Challenger” (pictured). After Cherie, Challenger was the horse I rode most often. Because he was my grandmother’s horse, my emotional bond was not as strong with Challenger as with the horses that were mine, but he is amazing. A truly solid partner whom I trusted with my life.
My grandmother got Challenger when he was just a young thing to use as a CTR (competitive trail ride) horse. The story is that one of his ancestors was allegedly used to cart liquor up and down the mountain. (Or so I have been told.) He was a fantastic little CTR horse and by the time he retired, he had racked up (pun intended!) many, many thousands of ride miles.
When my grandmother bought her second competitive trail horse, Jazz, I was put on Challenger as my introduction to the sport. I rode him for many years, and he took such good care of me on the trail. I started doing rides at a pretty young age, and even when I was nervous or scared, Challenger kept a cool head and did his thing. He was surefooted, smart, reliable, speedy, and the epitome of bombproof.
When I was around 8 years old, I took a turn too tightly in the outdoor ring. Because the ground was damp from rain, Challenger's feet slid out from under him. He landed flat on his side with my leg pinned under him and my head between his feet. He didn’t move a muscle. He laid there, completely calm and still while my mom moved him and me around trying to get my leg out. He waited until he saw me standing before he got himself up. A lesser horse may have thrashed and kicked my face in during its scramble to get up. He was an absolute gem. After that day, I knew I could trust him with my life.
I always joke that Challenger was old my entire life (he was in his mid-late teens when I was riding and competing on him). Yet, as of 2023, he’s still alive at nearly 40 years old.
Colors Little Doll (Georgie)
If I’m honest, I can barely talk or even think about Georgie (pictured) without crying. Even writing this is very difficult. Georgie was my heart horse. We were a perfect pair. She was everything I could have ever wanted in a horse and was the greatest partner I ever had and will ever have. Absolutely irreplaceable.
I actually met Georgie when she and I were both quite young (she was one year younger than me). She was a Tennessee Walker mare owned by a border at our farm. That border was always so kind to me, and she would sometimes let me sit on Georgie while she led her around. Then, my grandmother purchased Georgie from the border thinking she would become her “backup” competitive trail horse (this was before she purchased the above-mentioned Jazz). Well, after a fall, she decided that it was not going to work out. Then another family member who was into CTR’s tried her out, and that didn’t work out either. I was starting to outgrow Challenger, I still wanted to do CTR’s, and Georgie was available. So, it was my turn to try her out!
I absolutely loved her from first ride. She was always eager and willing to go. You just had to think about moving out and she would do it. All of her gaits were as smooth as butter. You barely even moved because she was so smooth! It was marvelous. And man could she go fast!! She was a fairly large horse too, so she could cover ground pretty quickly. I always got the sense that she enjoyed our time together, especially out on the trails. I admit that because she was so spectacularly smooth, I got very nitpicky about who else I would ride at the farm. Nobody was as comfortable as she was! More often than not, I’d just hop on her bareback and hack around.
You may be wondering, “If she was so marvelous, then why didn’t she work out for the other two?” Well, I think one reason was due to her singular “flaw”. She spooked at everything. That rustle in the bush? Spook. That twig she stepped on that snapped? Spook. That bird that flew in front of her? Spook. Every ride she was finding something to spook at. It didn't bother me because it was just a very quick stop, feet planted type spook (fellow riders probably know what I’m talking about) and then she would move on. She reacted often, but never overreacted. It was more like a “wow that startled me!” type thing. I knew that behavior would not change, so I just got used to it.
I think another reason may have been the rider’s attempt to overmanage her, but these are just speculations based on what I do know. Georgie wanted to be left loose to do her thing. She had a very strong personality, and if someone tried to micromanage her, she absolutely would not tolerate that. I generally let her do what she wanted with her head and I loosened my rein to let her. As long as she was going the direction I wanted at the general speed I wanted, I left her alone. Of course, I dictated our speed more on CTR’s out of necessity, but at home, if we were on the trail and she decided she wanted to gait a little, or canter, or come back to a walk, I let her. We never had any disagreements.
Unfortunate and terrible circumstances marked our parting, and there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t miss her.
Let’s hear some stories! Do you have any funny, sad, or happy anecdotes about your favorite equine partner? Share below!